Vikas Dubey’s Encounter Story is Full of Loopholes. Just Like Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin Sheikh

Crime

Vikas Dubey’s Encounter Story is Full of Loopholes. Just Like Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin Sheikh

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Gangster Vikas Dubey was killed in an encounter on Friday morning, a day after his arrest in Madhya Pradesh. The police say Dubey had tried to escape, after the car in which he was being ferried overturned on the highway to Kanpur, and was shot dead by officers.

But the fact that five of his aides have been killed in separate encounters over the last few days, and that he had apparently surrendered to the police in Ujjain, has had many former top police officers and opposition leaders alleging that the encounter was planned.

Videos that have emerged after the gangster was shot dead, point to loopholes in the police’s version of the story. A video of three cars crossing a toll booth around 4 am shows that Dubey was in a different car, not the one that is seen overturned on the highway. No one knows yet how that mysterious car switch took place, reports NDTV.

Another video shot around 6.30 am, around 30 minutes before the encounter, shows media cars chasing the envoy being stopped.

This has led to a furious debate online. However, it isn’t the most far-fetched theory, either, considering the Indian police’s history of taking matters into their own hands.

Before the notorious criminal, who had 62 cases filed against him, was killed, several other police encounters have been the subject of similar debate. Such as…

Sohrabuddin Sheikh case 

Back in 2006, the Gujarat Police allegedly killed Sohrabuddin Sheikh, who was accused of being associated with Pakistan’s ISI and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli, when the Anti-Terror Squad of the Gujarat police stopped them and took them to a farmhouse. Three days later,  DG Vanzara, the then-ATS chief, killed Sheikh.

In what would go one to become one of the most high-profile cases in the country’s recent history, it later emerged that Sheikh’s killing was planned, and that his wife, who happened to be a witness, was killed as well.

Over 20 officials went to jail over the encounter in 2007, including former Gujarat Home Minister, and current Union Home Minister, Amit Shah. They were later acquitted separately in 2014 and 2017, following lack of evidence, but Sheikh’s family, and the investigating officer stand by their version of events.

In 2006, Tulsiram Prajapati, an aide of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, was also killed in an alleged fake encounter. He was with Sheikh and his wife when they were arrested. However, the police showed that Prajapati was arrested in Rajasthan and was later eliminated.

Ishrat Jahan

The 19-year-old from Mumbai’s Mumbra was accused of being a terrorist, who was allegedly planning to assassinate then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, when she was killed by the state police along with three other men in 2004.

Since then, the incident has gained notoriety, as questions over whether the encounter was staged have dominated headlines. The CBI, which went on to investigate the case eventually filed charges against several Gujarat police officers, after several discrepancies were found in their version of events.

Among the many FIRs the CBI filed against the police for kidnapping and murder, one said Ishrat Jahan had no prior links to any terror organisations.

Batla House encounter

Back in 2008, the infamous Batla House encounter took place in which two men alleged to be Mujahideen terrorists were killed and a decorated police officer lost his life.

In the 10 years since, the case continues to be mired in conspiracy as several human rights organisations and activists alleged the encounter was staged. Some even went as far as saying the police had been arbitrarily arresting Muslim youths from Jamia Nagar.

The post-mortem conducted of the bodies of the two men killed in the encounter had apparently also raised several flags, even as the National Human Rights Commission eventually gave the officers involved a clean chit.

Warangal encounters

The killing of 20 men, who were suspected to be Red Sander smugglers in Andhra Pradesh back in 2015, is by far one of the bloodiest encounters in recent history.

Media reports from the time had said that the alleged smugglers who were caught red- handed by the police, attacked the officers with sickles, axes and stones. In response, the police reportedly shot dead 20 men over the next hour, raising several questions.

Activists alleged after the incident that the police had ambushed the smugglers, pointing to reports that only two officers had been injured in the incident while several smugglers had bullet injuries recorded in the back of their heads.

A number of questions were also raised over whether the encounter happened on the same day as the police alleged it did, and whether the logs were planted on the site.

Meanwhile, back in Uttar Pradesh, where the killing of criminal Vikas Dubey is dominating headlines, a number of police encounters have taken place over the last few years. According to a report in The Wire, as many as 1038 encounters had been reported in the state as of January 2018, many of which were mired in controversy.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, meanwhile, has praised this police action in the past. “The police are leading from the front,” he was quoted as saying on the day the state police released official data on the encounters that had taken place in 2017.

With opposition leaders and police officers now raising questions about the latest instance of extrajudicial punishment in the state, the debate is unlikely to die down soon.

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